That Moment When Your Child’s Honesty Makes You Want to Run and Hide

childhonesty
Image via Flickr/ peasap

It was just after 5 o’clock, and I was rushing through the grocery store on the military base where we lived, with my 4-year-old daughter in tow. As I sped-walked through the aisle, my oldest sat in the cart, narrating our journey.

We marched up to the checkout line with a full basket, and I pulled her out and instructed her to stand right next to me, with at least one hand on the cart. She did, and I went to the other side and started unloading our groceries.

I kept an eye on her and saw her wave at the man bagging our groceries. He was older, probably late 60s or early 70s, and most likely a veteran, which is the norm at military grocery stores. He smiled at her, waved, and told her he liked her boots.

“They’re just like daddy’s,” I heard her tell him proudly. She was so excited to find lace-up boots that resembled my husband’s combat boots.

And, then, I heard it: the innocent faux pas that comes from being old enough to speak, yet too young to understand what to keep to yourself.

“Where’d all your teeth go?” she asked him, referencing his sporadically-toothed smile.

 I closed my eyes as I felt my face go from its normal pale white to tomato red. If I wished hard enough, would it be possible to melt right into the floor at the grocery store checkout?

Nope. Life doesn’t work that way, and yes, my daughter had really asked the elderly gentleman bagging our groceries what had happened to his teeth. 

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I opened my eyes and looked at the man, an apology on the tip of my tongue, my eyes pleading for forgiveness of my too-honest child. I mouthed, “I’m so sorry,” and he smiled at me, and waved his hand to let me know it was no big deal and not the first time it had happened.

“That’s what happens when you don’t brush your teeth,” he told her with another smile. “Do you brush your teeth like your mommy tells you to?”

My daughter, who is on a tooth-brushing kick and wants to brush after each sip of juice during the day, beamed up at him and said, “Oh, YES. Elmo helps me brush my teeth, can he help you?”

I still have no idea what Elmo has to do with brushing her teeth, as she uses a Gruffalo toothbrush and Bubble Guppies toothpaste, but, nevertheless, there she was offering help to the gentleman. She wanted to fix him. She knew what the solution was. 

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The man followed us out to the car, pushing our bagged groceries, and we talked about the crazy weather we were having, and the plight of the local football team. As he loaded our groceries in the back, I buckled my daughter in, then went around back to help him. When he shut the hatch and I handed him his $4 tip, I said, “I’m so sorry, that was incredibly rude of her.”

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He corrected me, and said it was actually curiosity, not rudeness.

“Rudeness is when children—who are old enough to know better—point or stare at me, or laugh,” he said. “She genuinely wanted to know what happened to me. I appreciate that.”

I got back in the car, and listened to my daughter as she hummed the Barney song, thought about how to broach the subject, and decided to wait. He was right; she wasn't rude. And, since she hasn't really experienced getting her own feelings hurt, I didn't have anything to compare the situation to. 

I turned around to look at her, and she smiled at me with her own toothy grin, the one that will clearly need braces in the future. She'll figure out what can be said, and what shouldn't in her own time, as she learns social cues that can only come with time. For now, as long as she stays curious and kind, she's just fine. 

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That Moment When Your Child’s Honesty Makes You Want to Run and Hide

Rachel is a stay-at-home-mom to her 4-year-old daughter, Sydney, and her 18-month-old son, Jackson. Her writing can be found all over the web, mostly detailing her own parenting struggles and triumphs, as well as her life as the military spouse of an active-duty airman. She also writes about her life as as a special needs parent on her blog, Tales From the Plastic Crib, and spends an unnecessary amount of time on Twitter. ... More

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